DEMOCRACY, NOT THEOCRACY
Decisions about religion and spirituality are deeply personal. The government’s only role is simply to protect individual choice, not become entangled in religious discussion. Likewise, religion must not assert pressure on government to insert the doctrine or tenets of a particular religion into government. That’s what separation of church and state and religious liberty are all about and it protects both government and religious institutions.
Safeguarding separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty are the foundation stones upon which our country was built. If government is allowed to prefer one religious viewpoint over another or favor people of faith over non-believers, then we are sacrificing our heritage of freedom.
The United States of America is not a Christian nation. It is a religiously pluralistic nation with a diverse array of religious traditions and beliefs. Candidates for public office must respect the religious diversity of our country and of the constituents they seek to represent. They must never misuse religion for political gain. Elected officials must swear to uphold the Constitution and not their own personal religious beliefs if the two come into conflict when in office.
Some conservative groups want to change federal tax law and allow houses of worship to endorse or oppose political candidates using tax-exempt donations. This is unwise and would be deeply divisive in our pluralistic nation. It would harm our democracy and jeopardize the integrity of our religious organizations.
CIVIL RIGHTS and NON-DISCRIMINATION
All people are created with inherent worth and dignity and all people have the right to be free from discrimination as well as from acts of hatred. It is the responsibility of the federal and state governments to provide legal protection to its citizens and residents.
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund supports federal and state laws that uphold equality like the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), designed to provide legal protection for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons in the workplace as well as protection to religious minorities for religious dress and practices.
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund also works to ensure religion is not used as an excuse to discriminate. Every person has the right to hold their own personal, religious beliefs. However, the line is crossed when those beliefs are used to threaten the rights of other people.
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund calls for comprehensive immigration reform that would expand legal channels for immigrants to have legal protections and to contribute to the United States of America while safeguarding the sanctity of their families. All people should benefit from the expectation of fairness and justice, regardless of immigration status. Hard working and tax-paying Iowa immigrants embody the Iowa values of hard work, faith, and family and come to put down roots in Iowa communities in search of the American Dream.
WOMEN’S RIGHT TO QUALITY HEALTHCARE
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund works in partnership with ally organizations to protect a woman’s right to quality healthcare and to make her own health decisions regarding her body without the interference of the government or religion. All arguments against women’s reproductive choices are based in morality and sectarian religious beliefs. Using those religious beliefs in attempts to change the law and infringe upon the rights of others is unconstitutional harming our democracy, religious freedom, and women’s rights. Interfaith Alliance of Iowa has a long history of advocating for the “separation of church and state” so no one religious belief or voice can insert its beliefs into public policy or infringe on the rights of others.
State family planning services are designed to help people who are considered low income. Without the availability of these services, those with less income will have less ability to access quality healthcare. Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund stands with Planned Parenthood to ensure all women in Iowa have access to quality healthcare and family planning services.
WHY MARRIAGE EQUALITY MATTERS
Marriage has complex social, personal, legal, and spiritual meanings. At its core, marriage is the commitment between two people to care for and be responsible for each other.
There are many legal rights and responsibilities extended to couples when they civilly marry, which are meant to reinforce commitment, care, and responsibility. When a couple says, “We’re married,” everyone clearly understands the broad and deep nature of their relationship.
Faith communities see value in marriage as it contributes to stable families, providing the means to nurture and care for each other. Marriage is also a means to express religious values of faithfulness and commitment.
There are diverse opinions about marriage equality in different faith communities. Faith communities have the right to choose whom they marry or not marry without penalty, as guaranteed by the US Constitution. We affirm and defend this right. It is also important to note many houses of worship across faith traditions bless the relationships of same-sex couples. We affirm and defend this right as well.
PRINCIPLES FOR A STRONG PUBLIC EDUCATION
Public funds should support public education. While it is legal for families to select religious or private schools for their children, public funds must not be directly or indirectly diverted to non-public elementary or secondary schools including the use of tax deductions, tax credits, vouchers, and direct appropriations.
Our state and our communities must be able to provide fair pay and benefits to qualified teachers, state-of-the-art equipment, updated facilities, and continuing dialogue with those involved in education administration and teaching. The state of Iowa must provide adequate funding to the public schools to reach this goal.
Religious freedom is protected but the separation of religion and government must also be upheld. Personal prayer and studying the tenets of one’s religion are rights we strenuously guard. However, school-sponsored prayer or the posting of any religious tenet or symbols in a public school must be prohibited. Such actions endanger the integrity of public education and the sanctity of religion.
All children have the right to learn in an environment where they feel safe and respected. The state mandated law requiring each school district to develop a plan to reduce bullying and harassment must be universally implemented. Training of administrators, faculty, and students must be provided to have a safe environment for all students.
English Language Learner (ELL) students must be given the tools to succeed in our society for the benefit of the student and Iowa communities. Adequate funding for schools districts with high numbers of ELL students is key.
PROTECTING IOWA’S FAIR AND IMPARTIAL COURTS
Iowa’s merit selection and retention process keeps politics and campaign money out of our courts, safeguarding its fairness and impartiality. Iowa courts have a long history of protecting average citizens, and the retention of Iowa judges should be based on their ability to uphold the law fairly and consistently—not on the outcome of a single decision.
A fair and impartial perspective regarding any legal case coming before a court of law is the ideal standard for our judicial system under our nation’s constitution. Unfortunately, many judges in other states are not appointed by a merit system and are rather elected through political favoritism, partisanship, or through the special interest financing of campaigns.
Judicial independence is the principle that the courts should be immune from improper influence from the other branches of government and from partisan special interest groups. The judicial branch must rule by law and fact, not by popular or political agenda.
In the 2010 election, three Iowa Supreme Court Justices faced an unprecedented retention vote challenge and unfortunately, were not retained. With close to $1 million in out of state funding from extremist groups like the American Family Association, the conservative religious right successfully injected fear tactics into the judicial retention election and skewed the public perception of the role of the judiciary.
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa joined with progressive allies through Justice Not Politics to fight against the extremist agenda of the religious right and to protect the courts. Since 2010, no other justices or judge has been unfairly removed from the court.
ENSURING GUN SAFETY IN OUR COMMUNITIES
Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and Action Fund supports reducing the risk to children and communities by demanding Congress and the Iowa Legislature pass commonsense public policies to decrease gun violence and increase gun safety. Public policies must mandate criminal background checks for all firearm sales, ban assault weapons for use by the general public, ban public access to high capacity ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds, strengthen access to mental health services, and address school safety.
The right to own firearms is protected under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. However, the individual right to own a firearm comes with important responsibilities regarding community safety and is therefore not without condition.
The proliferation of firearms exacerbates the danger experienced each day in many urban neighborhoods. No state or community exists in a silo or as an island. Laws, or the lack of laws, in one state impacts communities in other states.
Most school shootings and mass murders in the United States have complicating factors (e.g. mental health issues). However, it is evident that easy access to firearms and ammunition, particularly assault weapons and high capacity clips, ensures the actions and impact of a determined assailant will be magnified.
While the horror associated with mass murders receives justified attention by media and the public, violence on the streets of our nation and in our communities has grown to alarming rates and must be addressed. Many of our children feel unsafe, particularly children in impoverished areas, because their neighborhoods actually are unsafe. The proliferation of and easy access to guns contributes to the violence seen each day in cities across the United States.